Aleksy II, 79, the Russian Orthodox patriarch who led a revival of the church after the fall of Communism and built close ties with the Kremlin under Vladimir V. Putin, died yesterday at his residence in Moscow, news agencies reported.
The church did not disclose the cause of death. He had long suffered from heart problems.
Aleksy II was named patriarch in 1990, just before the end of the Soviet Union, ascending to the leadership of a church that had often suffered brutal discrimination under the officially atheistic Communists. Under Stalin, many priests were killed or sent to labor camps, and cathedrals were destroyed.
First under President Boris N. Yeltsin and then under Putin, Yeltsin's successor, Aleksy II significantly deepened the role of the church in everyday life - erecting and restoring cathedrals, introducing Orthodox religious education in public schools and becoming a prominent voice on moral issues. While church attendance has remained low, growing numbers of Russians identify themselves as Russian Orthodox.